In the beautiful setting of the Port Louis Municipal Council Chamber, Aanas Ruhomaully told the gathering of all sorts of people present for the launch of his book of 256 haiku poems, “Mo Lavil Enn Liv Uver: Porlwi an Haiku”, how he, when he grew up in Port Louis, walked around so much, enjoying every corner of his city that he ended up with a mental plan of almost all it. You can believe it, as you read the haikus.
And though he no longer lives in Port Louis, he said, he still feels like a Porlwizyin. To mark this, there is a translated Basho (1644-94) haiku in place of a dedication at the beginning of his book. It reads:
Mem mo dan Porlwi
Kan mo tann zozo konde
Porlwi mank mo mem
Being homesick for a place even when you are there, is exactly the kind of deep and contradictory emotion that haiku’s yearn to express. Many of Aanas’s own Haiku’s do this, too.
Addressing friends and family of the writer, LPT members, guests from all walks of life, and the Press, former President of the Republic, Mr Cassam Uteem, also a Porlwizyin by birth and also a lover of literature, launched the book. He complimented the book of poetry for its contribution to literature, to the city of Port Louis (he compared this little volume favourably to Port Louis by Night and by Nature) and to the Mauritian Kreol language. Himself a Shakespearean actor in his youth, Mr Cassam Uteem also treated everyone present to some of his favourites among the Aanas Ruhomaully haiku’s, reading them for us. Mr Uteem, always committed to his ideas, also on this occasion, called for the introduction of Mauritian Kreol as the medium for learning other subjects, including other languages, and called for the language to be allowed in the National Assembly.
In his chairing the ceremony, Alain Ah-Vee, announced how for LPT’s 40th anniversary year, this book was the seventh published in one year. He said how, over time, LPT, LALIT and other organizations and individual writers, had contributed to forcing the state to take any measures in favour of Kreol that had been taken. The State prefers to do nothing for the Kreol language, he said. And then French and English, which have whole “establishments” protecting their every inch, as do the oriental and ancestral languages, too. So, he said, it depends on this same kind of mobilization continuing into the future, too. He warned against the fashionable approach in the elite, to the effect that everyone should sit still, not rock the boat, and Kreol would make its headway by itself. This will not happen. We have to, at one and the same time, call consistently and loudly for policy changes, like the introduction of Kreol in Parliament, for minutes of associations and as medium in schools, and also just go ahead and produce material in Kreol anyway, ourselves, as we do. This is what LPT has done, and will continue doing he said. He paid homage to all the people had been involved in producing this book – from the writer to all those involved in production, in LPT and not in LPT, like Gerard Mignon, Vinesh Hookoomsing (who wrote the interesting preface) and Bahemia Printers who did the binding. He said the Municipality had supported the book. In fact, it donated Rs5,000 from its cultural fund.
There were four “readers” at the launch, who each read a short series of the haiku’s from the Prologue section, one series from one of the 14 middle sections, and a series from the Epilogue section. They were Darma Mootien, a “professional” actor, Jiovani Rose, Yanna Amodine and Begum Bedullah. Each read in a totally different way from the others, in his or her own voice, and it made for a harmonious whole.
Aanas has many beautiful, sometimes disturbing haiku’s:
Lasann enn lane
Kan flanbwayan anflame
After the ashes of a year gone by, it is as though through the flaming flamboyant tree, a new year burns its way into existence. So, instead of a Phoenix from the ashes, a flame, defying the very laws of nature, by burning what has already burnt out, constitutes the re-birth. Like the Basho haiku translated into Kreol at the beginning of the book, this haiku, too, has a deep and contradictory emotion, yearning for expression.
And some of the Haiku’s are even more strange:
Lakre enn pwazon
Ekrir lordonans lamor
Pu lezar plafon.
It starts with something so familiar (lakre kankrela) that it is much too mundane for “literature”. And yet it leaves one with both the roused memories of school (the chalk) and its poison, and also, through the oxymoron “lordonans lamor” how we are reading a generalized critique of the lot of humankind (today?) hemmed in by these chalk poisoned prescriptions – in society in general. Again the juxtaposition of a mere pesticide chalk and the deathly prescription for ceiling lizards.
And in a similar vein:
Loto sort Kazern
Lame dibwa. Masinn teyn.
Li re fel so tes.
The car, and driving it, is a test, and it is the repressive forces that check you. Again, something prosaic and everyday – the poor learners trying to get a driving license and failing somehow segues into a kind of test in life, one that the Authorities run, and also the mundaneness and ubiquity of “the car”. And that you can fail and fail again. The ordinary expression “lame dibwa” somehow comes to mean some important physical limitation.
But, to go back to the launch, it was – although not at the enchanted LPT Bookshop – still in the usual LPT spirit.
Conclusion on Launch
LPT’s launch events have the particular characteristic of a very high standard of speeches (Mr Uteem’s, Alain’s and Aanas’s) coupled with something honest and unpretentious – unlike much, but not all, in the Mauritius art-world, which is characterized by the very opposite: low-grade speeches and inversely proportionate pretentiousness.
The readings, too, were done straight-forwardly and with personal integrity – take it, or leave it. Making them beautiful.
And the social event afterwards, both laid-back with old friends meeting each other, and new, young people joining in, and also full of important conversations. At the Aanas launch, there were conversations about the Trump decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and how from Clinton, through Bush and Obama, this had already been supported by these Presidents and voted by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, thus preparing the way for this totally unacceptable declaration. While Israeli colonization, its military occupation, often goes unmentioned in US politics, or is referred to as if it were a dead metaphor.
And conversations about the milestones for the Kreol language could be heard: leading up to this one. Yet another milestone: a book of Haiku’s in Kreol.